The USADA has always been aggressive about tossing any athlete caught using performance-enhancing drugs – and sometimes even just suspected of using performance-enhancing drugs – clean out of competition, often times banning them for years on end.
This standard protocol has become so commonplace that any athlete competing at a level where the USADA testing protocols get involved understands exactly what could happen to them should they run afoul of these performance-enhancing drug policies.
Recently, however, coaches – individuals that are not competing any longer, but instead just coaching – are starting to learn just how vindictive the USADA can be and how serious they are about expunging anyone that might have been involved with performance-enhancing drugs from the entirety of their programs.
Just ask Nick Saccente.
In 2016, while competing at the USA Weightlifting University National Championships, Nick tested positive from an in competition sample. It turns out that he was taking advantage of anabolic steroids and performance-enhancing drugs and because it was his first-ever violation he was handed down a four-year suspension – effectively ending his career at USADA sanctioned events.
Not willing to give up his dream of competition, Nick decided to continue to compete in a variety of other events that weren’t sanctioned by the USADA or the WADA – instead participating in events that had their own specific rules set regarding performance-enhancing drugs and anabolic steroids.
Unsurprisingly, the USADA wasn’t at all thrilled at the prospect of Saccente skirting the rules and still being able to compete. At the time, however, they did not have any leverage or opportunity to hold his feet to the fire (so to speak) and instead had to sit on the sidelines while he continued to compete at events all over the world.
Then, after an injury left him looking for a way to continue his participation in the sport he had come to love, Saccente decided to get into coaching. Almost immediately the USADA swept in and told him that he wasn’t eligible to coach any athletes that were going to compete at USADA sanctioned events.
Shortly after being hired by the USA weightlifting Team Saccente found himself sanctioned by the USADA.
Already under suspension from USADA officials from his time during competition, Saccente found out that he had his initial four-year suspension increased by an extra four months – stretching out to 52 months total.
On top of that, the USADA added new stipulations that Saccente wasn’t able to participate in any capacity whatsoever, including coaching or serving as an athletic support individual, to any athlete that was competing in USADA or WADA sanctioned events.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, the USADA claimed that Saccente had actually violated his period of ineligibility by choosing to coach another athlete, ruling that his decision to coach had absolutely no bearing on the fact that he was still suspended from competition and that somehow athletes that were competing under his tutelage were acting as proxies
There is a tremendous amount of (completely understandable) pushback from the community against the USADA. Under this new rule set (which it seems like the USADA made up on the fly out of thin air) there are a very limited amount of career opportunities for Saccente and other coaches like in the fitness community.
Saccente has decided to push back against the USADA with a high-powered legal team, and while the fight could take years to come to a conclusion he has given every indication that he’s more than willing to do the heavy lifting necessary to push back against what he feels is total overreach by this governing body.